Woodstock ’94 started out a little different from the original. I was booked on that special United flight into New York…the one full of industry people wanting to be hippies just one more time. The flight was delayed, so I sat down in the padded chair in that fancy room they reserve for first class passengers. That’s when it all went to hell.
A buttoned-down steward (certainly not sporting the Woodstock look) approached me with a frown. It seems I was the only passenger in first class who hadn’t ordered the special vegetarian plate and he was worried that others might be offended at the smell of my well-done steak. I flipped him half the peace sign, closed my eyes and thought back 25 years ago.
It started out as just another balmy, breezy morning in Coconut Grove. A bunch of us were living in the park. On the beach. A stone’s throw from downtown Miami. In between my regular job as a deejay on WFUN, I told fortunes in the park. I can steal read a palm with the best of them.
I was also partly responsible for cooking the evening meal we all shared. I say partly responsible because none of us were really responsible.
Anyhow, one of my brothers (we called all of our friends brothers or sisters in those days) named John Joseph Henry Billygoat Night-timer Sweetdaddy Fox approached me grinning like a mule eating briars.
“Pete,” he says (everyone called me Pete in those days because…aw, hell, just accept it without an explanation) “how would you like to go to Woodstock?”
I had no money. I had to work that evening. I had absolutely no idea where Woodstock was or why we should be going, so I had only one answer: “Of course.”
He waved over a thin, tender looking guy with long, stringy, blonde hair who was wearing bell-bottoms, a tie-dyed shirt, love beads and a headband with a peace sign in the middle. (Weren’t we all?)
“This is Electric Brian,” Sweetdaddy said.
I gave him half-a-dozen of the handshakes that were in vogue at the time, finishing with the two-palmed clasp that showed I really meant it.
“Hey, man,” I asked, “where’s Woodstock?” In those days I wasn’t afraid to make a fool out of myself by not knowing everything.
Electric Brian gave me a thousand-mile stare. “It’s where Bob Dylan lives, man.”
I said, “Far out.” Could I have really had any other response?
I chugged the cup of herbal tea Sweetdaddy offered and asked, “Who’s going?”
“Me, you and Gappy Lucy. Brian’s paying for all of us.”
Gappy Lucy got her nickname because one of her front teeth was false. When she got stoned, she would take the tooth out and put a cigarette in its place. It was the sexiest thing I had ever seen.
When Sweetdaddy asked me how I liked the tea, I should have known things were about to get really twisted. You see, in those days, I was determined to keep my body and mind pure and clean and refused to do any drugs. My brothers and sisters were constantly trying to get me high and I should have heard a warning signal. But I didn’t. I guess I was too pure.
We jumped into Gappy’s VW van and headed for the airport. About half-way there, we ran out of gas. I’m pretty sure we became the first people attending Woodstock to abandon a vehicle on the side of the road and continue walking.
Inside the terminal, Electric Brian asked us what airline we’d like to fly, but I couldn’t answer. I was too busy dodging the giant winged alligators that materialized out of nowhere and were dive-bombing my head. I started to ask Sweetdaddy if he saw the alligators, but he looked to peaceful. I decided to wait. I knew he would see them soon enough.
When Electric Brian got us four seats on Bahamian Airlines, I should have said something. I had found out that Woodstock was in New York and I was pretty sure that New York wasn’t in the Bahamas, but I was too busy trying not to step on the snakes that were gathering at my feet. At least the alligators had disappeared.
The flight seemed to take only a few minutes, but I really can’t be sure as I was definitely not into space and time. I managed to gulp another cup of herbal tea and stepped down the stairs into a tropical paradise.
“I don’t know Woodstock was this beautiful,” Gappy said.
Sweetdaddy told her Bob Dylan lived there. I didn’t know what that had to do with anything and didn’t care. The alligators were back and they had turned nasty.
Somehow we made it to the hotel, though I never remembered the room. Electric Brian kept pulling out his credit card to pay for everything. I spent two days and nights in a hammock by the pool, drinking rum and pineapple juice…and more herbal tea. I really couldn’t leave the pool area. I was the only one who could see the giant octopus and keep it away from the children, though as time went on, the tourist families began to give us a wide berth.
I met John and Yoko. I asked him how he liked Woodstock. He said he didn’t really know and I thought that was cool. What was cooler was that he also saw the flying alligators.
By midnight of the second day, I began to wonder where all the bands were, but it really didn’t matter by then. Gappy Lucy had scared some children when she accidentally dropped her tooth off the diving board. Sweetdaddy took one of those kerosene tiki torches to try and illuminate the bottom. He lost his footing, fell in and set the pool on fire.
Electric Brian thought it was really cool, but hotel security disagreed. At least we got a police escort to the plane. As we got off in Miami, someone from Elektra Records grabbed Electric Brian and took away his credit card. That’s when I figured out how he got his name.
It wasn’t until a year later when I saw the movie that I realized I never quite made it to Woodstock. Or maybe I did. That special herbal tea was a bitch. And I don’t know anybody who can prove I wasn’t there.
The steward tapped me on the shoulder and brought me back to the present. He said it was time for boarding and offered me some herbal tea. I changed plans and jumped the next flight to Hawaii.
Woodstock ’94? Just like the original, baby. Far out.